Janet Vohs | Obituary
Janet Vohs, 72, of Brookline, MA – longtime champion of children with special needs and devoted mother – died peacefully at home on December 26, 2016 after a valiant struggle with breast cancer. Her daughter Jessica and close friends were by her side. She was born in Dayton Ohio on October 20, 1944, the daughter of Henry and Rita Vohs of Rantoul, IL.
There are people you meet in life who leave an indelible impression, Janet was one such person. She had a flare for…life! She was fiercely loving, unwaveringly loyal, inalterably focused. No one dwelt in possibility like she did. In her classic way, she spoke truth to power, to her family, and to her friends, in ways that made real listening happen and real change occur. Whether you were an old friend or a new colleague, meeting with Janet was an unforgettable experience. She sought out the best in others, reminding them of their shining qualities.
Janet earned a B.A. degree in English from Quincy College in Quincy, IL. She worked at the Federation for Children with Special Needs in Boston MA. for over 30 years, receiving their Parent Advocacy Award in 2013. She wrote numerous articles for professional publications and newsletters, and also wrote and edited resource guides for parents of students with special needs.
She was a gifted writer, an artist with the written word. She believed deeply in the deliberate construction of meaning, and she took seriously her responsibility to communicate powerful, groundbreaking ideas word by word, phrase by phrase, paragraph by paragraph. No matter how long it took.
Janet’s illustrious career at the Federation for Children with Special Needs provided the platform to advance the causes she was most passionate about. Her work at both state and national levels for decades altered the lives of countless children, families, and systems. Her ability to bring together cogent reasoning, elegant prose, and a touch of “why not?” to her work gave so many families permission to have big dreams for their children, dreams that they would go on to achieve.
When she brought all of her gifts together, she was a force to be reckoned with! No one benefited more from all that was Janet than her beloved daughter Jessica. Janet’s passionate devotion to Jessica shaped both their lives. In her quest to create a fulfilling and beauty-filled life for Jess, Janet found her professional calling, first as an advocate for the rights of children with disabilities and, later, as a champion for all vulnerable populations.
Janet fought like a tiger to give Jessica a life of inclusion, in spite of her severe disabilities — to be educated, productive and break the bonds of institutionalization and labeling as a “special needs” person. Janet’s fight brought her to the Federation for Children with Special Needs where she wrote newsletters giving guidance and advice of parent empowerment to other families. She was active in forcing legislative changes to support policies of inclusion and instrumental in establishing the first statewide Parent Information & Resource Center funded under the General Education Law. She made several trips to Washington DC and spoke and lobbied for the cause of justice for our children. Her fight brought her to know dignitaries such as Ted Kennedy and George Will, as well as many others. Her strength and wish to be with, and care for, her beloved Jessica sustained her through years of debilitating health. That was a strength that we all admired so much in Janet. She is our hero.
Janet was an avid reader, Scrabble player, and cook. She particularly enjoyed grilling out in the summer for Jessica, neighbors, and friends. Janet was an explorer, a deep and thoughtful thinker, a lover of her one “wild and precious” life. Her vibrancy, zest for life and indomitable spirit will be emulated, but never imitated. Her beautiful spirit will remain with all who knew her and she will be missed forever.
Janet is survived by her beloved daughter Jessica Vohs, brother James (Chris) Vohs of Champaign IL, sisters Cheryl Vohs of Rantoul IL, and Marilyn Vohs of St. Petersburg FL. Further survived by many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. She was preceded in death by her parents.
The family would like to thank her superb home team – Carlos, Lester, and especially Mark; her wonderful medical care team at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital; and her many other friends who supported her during her illness.
A Memorial Service will be planned at a later date. Memorial donations may be made to the Federation for Children with Special Needs, 529 Main St., Suite 1M3, Boston, MA 02129.